More than 100 local fishermen protested the confiscation of their boats yesterday after officials claimed they weren’t allowed to use engines and techniques reserved for commercial angling.
The crackdown started at about 6:30am in Russei Keo district in Phnom Penh. Fishermen had gathered along the banks of the Tonle Sap river, as they had for the past two days with no interruption, to head out on boats and net trey riel – a small seasonal fish used to make prahok.
Chaktumuk fishery inspection officials soon stopped them, taking their boats and setting off a protest that would last eight hours until officials returned the vessels with a warning.
One person was fined $50.
Los Yer, 49, the fishermen’s representative, told the Post yesterday that 40 boats were kept by the fishery officials. The fishermen, he said, used prahok for personal sustenance – to feed their families – not to sell in large quantities or as a business.
“The fishing boats that were held were thought to use machine-aided assistance for fishing,” he said.
He added that he knows the law prevents them using engine-aided boats for non-commercial fishing, but that the fishermen have to adapt to reality.
Oars and paddles, in other words, don’t get the job done.
Ser Res, 51, from Nhouk village in Kandal province, said he always fishes with his younger brother in this area every year in order to make smoked fish and prahok.
After a day’s catch, they then barter the haul for milled rice and stow the saved food for when the fishing season ends.
“Our fishing is like the careers of motodops. If we don’t try to find fish, how can we have rice to eat, because we don’t have farmland,” he said.
He also said that he and other fishermen have been fishing in the area for two days and the authorities did not stop them.
A rumour went around that commercial fishermen in the area were peeved by the presence of small-timers.
However, Loh Yer said that after the protest and help from local officials, the boats were returned.
Song Hong, chief of the local Chaktomuk Fisheries Office, said the problem was resolved and the proper warning was issued.